Dealing with emergency situations

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West Grand Superintendent | Dr. Darrin Peppard
West Grand Superintendent | Dr. Darrin Peppard

Last Wednesday, our country once again was shaken by a horrific act of violence in a public school. The events of February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida represent the darkest fears of schools, parents, administrators, and students alike. The question that naturally follows an event such as this is ‘what is our school district doing to keep our kids safe?’

West Grand School District regards the safety and well-being of all our students and staffulty with the utmost seriousness. And while no magic formula to prevent acts of violence exists, the district has taken many proactive steps to address issues before they become bigger problems. The work our counselors and teachers do to help students understand and manage stress, anger, and challenges they face as they grow is to be commended. Focused efforts teaching students about their own mental and social/emotional health in our classrooms, especially with our younger students, is critical not only here but across the nation. I’m amazed every day with how hard our teachers and other staffulty work to know our kids and build trusting relationships with them. Those relationships are paramount to students feeling comfortable coming forward when they hear something, see something, or have a concern. As well, those connections with kids enable staffulty to identify concerns in advance and get them addressed. Anonymous tips can be submitted to the district and Kremmling Police Department through Safe 2 Tell Colorado (https://safe2tell. org/). As an example, imagine a few kids overhear something in a classroom and come forward with their concern. Once we’re alerted, our principals investigate the situation to the fullest extent, in partnership with the Kremmling PD. Investigation alone is not enough, so principals can follow up with violence risk-assessments, meetings with the student and their parents, and if necessary further counseling. As well, WGSD has many policies in place outlining consequences for violent behaviors, including but not limited to possession of weapons, making terroristic threats, and gang activity. Consequences may include suspension and/or expulsion, depending on the severity of the act.

Other steps our district has taken in the past include the implementation of the standard response protocol (SRP). This was accomplished in West Grand School District a number of years ago. SRP is a communication protocol the district uses internally for evacuation, lock down, lock out, shelter in place, or a hold in the classroom. Each of these important commands have a specific response our staffulty has been trained to perform. Consistency in how this protocol is followed is very important, which is part of why we perform more than simple fire drills. For more on SRP, see https://iloveuguys.org/srp.html During the course of the school year, the district leadership team has been developing a new Emergency Operations Plan, working in collaboration with outside agencies. By developing, and then practicing this plan, reaction and communication in any emergency situation will be much more efficient and streamlined. Certainly we hope to never need a plan, but of course it is essential that we have this in place.

Finally, communicating in emergency situations in a vital element. Two way radios on campuses and in our buses give us the best opportunity to communicate without relying on cell phones, which often fail in crisis situation due to overloaded circuits. Our district utilizes the SchoolWay app as well. This is a very powerful oneway communication tool for the school to be in contact with parents, students, staffulty, and others. Using SchoolWay, we are able to send out a push message to mobile phones, email accounts, and social media platforms. In emergency situations, you will see SchoolWay pop up on your device as an ALERT, followed by important information. SchoolWay is free to our subscribers, actually free to the district as well. If you have not yet signed up for SchoolWay, please call the school offices or the district office. We are happy to help you get set up.

It is tragic that events such as Parkland continue to happen in our society and this great country. Prevention from both proactive and reactive directions is important, but being aware and keeping our eyes and ears open is equally important. As they say, if you see something say something. Working in partnership, we as a community can take great steps toward keep our schools safe.